Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday's Series Spotlight: The Gaslight Mysteries by Erin O'Quinn

** New edition 2016 (revised/re-edited) **

Heart to Hart #1
Two unlikely men meet in 1923 Ireland.

Michael McCree seems to be a newspaperman, running from a past in Boston. He’s a lover of men and a drinker of whiskey, and yet one with some surprising depths and one huge secret.

Simon Hart is a surly, angry, altogether closeted and touch-me-not fellow, a Cambridge-educated private investigator whose business partner has been murdered. He meets Michael in a newspaper shop when turning in an obit notice.

They clash. Fisticuffs fly. And before Simon knows what’s happened, he’s gained a new flat-mate, a new business partner, and a wanna-be lover. It’s the “wanna-be” that drives the present story…and all that follow.

Sparring with Shadows #2
Something about Simon Hart’s new PI partner Michael McCree—not to mention his secret vocation—invites trouble. Simon finds himself sparring with shadows: in the hidden bedrooms of a roaring twenties version of a gay bar…as a chained wall decoration in the flat of a thief and sexual deviant…as the quarry in a deadly confrontation in an exhibitionist’s bed…and finally in a sewer tunnel beneath the streets of a 1923 city somewhere in Ireland.

Above all, Simon is sparring with the shadow of his own secret urges. Michael will not allow him to turn away from a kind of private investigation of which he has not even dreamed, until now.

Follow a fastidious, surly investigator and his randy yet secretive partner through the very cracks in a city of gaslights and vintage motorcars, into a hidden homosexual culture, as both men find themselves sparring with shadows.

To The Bone #3
The time is 1923, and the place is a fantasy city in Ireland.

Private eyes Michael McCree and Simon Hart have a case to solve: to find more than a score of stolen paintings, and especially one small valuable work of art worth more than all the others. But the case grows more complex the deeper they look into it. Soon Michael and Simon find themselves searching not just for a thief, but for a city-wide ring of criminals. And the closer they get to the paintings, the closer they find themselves to a killer.

Into this mix steps a man named Moshe—a pesky, secretive, nosy man who is nevertheless a brilliant investigator himself. He gives both the men fits, burrowing like a tick into their very private affairs, so close they have a hard time evading him.

Can the investigators solve a series of crimes and take care of the interfering Moshe, while driving their own intense relationship all the way to the bone?

Thin as Smoke #4
Even after three Gaslight Mystery novels—on the first anniversary of their meeting—uptight, closeted Simon is still more out of than into Michael’s bed. And now a thin but attractive man emerges from the smoke of the gay pub Paddy’s.

It’s Dashiell Hammett. And he’s not there for an autograph signing. His presence is the catalyst for a profound change in the lives of both 1920s private eyes as they face Mafia bootleggers, careless revolvers, and the dead end of their ever-edgy partnership.

Hammett’s unexpected arrival forces the PIs to work apart. Simon, jealous of the stranger’s ties with his sometime-lover, must act alone to track down a group of dedicated criminals. Michael, remembering his uneasy past with the hollow-chested operative, barely manages to keep his wits after discovering the disappearance of his partner.

Masters of Cane #5
There is something evil afoot in the growing city of Dun Linden, Ireland (1924) where private dicks Michael McCree and Simon Hart have a PI agency. No one has hired them this time, as they find their neighbors and their own tiny spy network in grave danger from a group of thieves who would rather slit a throat than pick an honest pocket; and an old nemesis who has a score to settle with both of them.

When the peril grows too grave for two men to handle, they call on a few trusted friends and some unusual weaponry to help in a case where they are outnumbered—but never outwitted.

The always-edgy partnership of the two investigators also undergoes some twists and turns … of fate and canes alike.

Original Reviews:
Books #1-3 on May 18, 2014:
I read all three books and since the time frame from page 1 of Heart to Hart to the last page of To the Bone only covers about two to three weeks, I'm going to do an overall review for these entries.  I won't lie, the beginning was a bit tricky to get into with the Irish slang of the time but I was able to become comfortable with it after only a chapter or so.  As I write this I am thinking that it had more to do with me not letting go of the previous book before starting this series and less of the slang language, but whatever the reason, after that first chapter I was hooked.  Simon and Michael grabbed my heart and didn't let go.  I loved the humorous banter between the new found partners.  I found them to be very enjoyable and likeable despite their moments of infuriating debates.  At times, they reminded me very much of the banter and bickering of Bogey and Bacall in The Big Sleep.  The mysteries are quite intriguing and definitely hold the reader's interest as does the humor and the obvious attraction between the pair.  Michael McCree and Simon Hart are a captivating pair that I look forward to read many times over.

Thin as Smoke #4 on  February 19, 2015:
Simon and Michael are spectacular once again.  I love the fact that this installment is centered around their one year "anniversary".  We get to see how each of them see that fateful day and when you throw in their new case and the addition of Michael's old colleague, you have yourself a perfect addition to the Gaslight Mysteries.

Speaking of Michael's old colleague, Sam Hammett, it's a special treat for me.  Not only does Sam bring a new element to the story, an inkling of Michael's history and Simon dealing with the jealousy that Sam's arrival has brought out, but for me it adds a bit of fangirl moments.  Sam Hammett, or as most people know him, Dashiell Hammett, is the creator of my most favorite mystery solving couple, Nick and Nora Charles and The Thin Man.  Neither The Thin Man nor Hammett's writing skills have any bearing on this story but just the addition of his character into the mix had me giddy going in and once I finished Thin as Smoke, I was just as giddy.  Miss O'Quinn weaves Hammett into the world that Simon and Michael live in with creativity and nearly as much charm as Michael used to originally worm his way into Simon's life back in Heart to Hart.

Now for the mystery itself.  Perfect for the duo, or should I say trio in this case.  I don't think that the case is as big a part of this story as the cases in the first three of the series.  However, I do think that how the characters deal with the case and each other is more at the center of Thin as Smoke, which is still part of the mystery so perhaps it's just from a different angle.  However you look at the ins and outs of the case, this is a great addition the series and a must read, especially if you like historical settings.

Masters of Cane #5 on February 2, 2016:
Masters of Cane begins less than 24 hours after Thin as Smoke ended and once again Simon wakes before Michael with his ongoing internal debate over their relationship still percolating, though he does seem to come to his wants and needs faster than usual.  But nothing comes easy for this lovely duo and this time they find their little friend Squeak the one possibly in danger.

Michael McCree has always seemed a bit on the me first side, at least on the surface, but he truly cares for those in his life and that includes Squeak and Copper as well as Simon and Sam.  Yes, Dashiell "Sam" Hammett returns and this time Simon may still hold some elements of jealousy for the history Sam shares with Michael but he also comes to see Sam as his friend too.

There may not be a paying client this time but they do have friends and neighbors to protect and they do it as only Simon and Michael can, with a little ingenuity, spontaneity, and passion.  Another great entry in the Gaslight Mysteries.


Heart to Hart #1
Simon got out of bed and found a towel in his linen closet. Drawing his robe on, he tied the sash and left for the small cast iron bathtub down the hall.

He turned the handle, expecting if the room were in use it would not yield to his pull. But it yielded, and he stepped inside.

There, like a grizzly bear immersed in a tiny honey pot, sat Michael McCree in the small claw footed bathtub.

Again Simon felt the pounding of blood in his face and he turned to leave.

“Nay, Simon. Bolt the goddamn door, man, an’ stay. We don’t have all day to bugger around with fine courtesies.”

“I…am sorry…about last night.”

“Get in the tub, lad.”

“No, I—”

“Damn ye, Simon, grow a pair of testicles, will ye? Do I look like a mad rapist?”

...Simon stepped into the tub. The water was pleasingly warm, not soapy. He stood a moment looking down at the hair, like corn silk, which fell almost to Michael’s shoulders. He sat. Both of them had their knees drawn up in an attempt to fit inside the small enclosure.

Michael began to run his hand up and down Simon’s shins in a slow caress. He made no attempt to pry his legs apart, now locked together as if glued in place. “I don’t ask ye to suck me, lad. I don’t ask if I can sink me flesh into your honeyed rump. All I want is to have ye to wash it. Will ye?”

Simon swallowed carefully. “Yes.”

Michael handed him a small cake of soap and a washcloth. Then he rose from the water like a god rising from the sea, water cascading off his hips and down his large thighs.

For the first time, Simon gazed on the full, erect phallus of Michael McCree.

His own imagination hadn’t been far off the mark. He seemed big as a stud stallion. The shaft was a trellis of purple veins. The cowl seemed almost like a coil of heavy rope wrapped around his shaft. His testicles were long and darkly gold, cobwebbed with fine hairs, pendulous and full.

“Do it,” Michael whispered.

Sparring with Shadows #2
“What you called me. What you must think of me.”

Michael knew instantly what was bothering his friend. The word omi-palone, homosexual, once out of his mouth tonight, was forever said. Michael knew he could not—would not—retract them. Simon must be able to solve the mystery of who he was. He had to come to terms with himself before he’d ever wholly accept Michael as a lover. Before he’d be able to solve any other mystery, he needed to start with the secret of who and what he was.

He looked at Simon and saw his head tilted to stare up to the ceiling, a look of anguish on his face. “You called me omi-palone. You think I’m a sexual toy. A ready hole. A piece of flesh. All the things I saw tonight, that’s what I am to you or to any man.”

Michael felt a huge sense of loss threaten him. His throat began to close up, and he tried to clear it, to force air into his windpipe.

“What I called ye? I called ye me love.”

Crap. Simon was forcing his hand one more time, shaking loose the cards entrenched in his sleeve. He struggled to tell Simon something of what was cramped and curled in his gut.

“An’ what I think of ye? I think ye’re the best thing ever happened to a broken down Irishman. An omi-palone is not one to revile. That’s who I am. Proud to be a lover of men. Of a man. One man. God damn it, what d’ye want me to say, Simon?”

Michael, head bowed, saw the limp suspender lying on the bed, a shadow of Simon’s despair. Then his lover’s hand began to inch toward his own.

“I would rather you say nothing. I would rather you lie here with me. Only that and no more. Will you?”

Still in his rude trousers, Michael rolled to where Simon lay on his back. He pulled the naked shoulders into his own chest and let the man’s tangled hair spread there, a dark wound.

To The Bone #3
On the verge of another curse, Michael felt a slight tremble of the bed, and he knew without over-thinking it that his lover had crawled in next to him.

He continued to lie on his belly, his face turned into the pillow. Let Simon speak and act. He would merely listen. Or do whatever Simon needed from him.

“I’ve been meaning to apologize.”

Michael wisely did not answer.

“I…accidentally left my gift behind. The beautiful book. The mistake has clawed my heart. You must think me a coward and a cad.”

Still Michael waited and then he felt the touch. Simon’s fingers lightly trailed the back of his neck, then his shoulders. His skin turned to tiny bumps from his nape to his balls; his breath came slow and labored. His lover’s low voice sounded muffled, strained. “You said we were starting the chess game from the first pawn move. Not my intent. I think that cannot happen anyway.”

He felt Simon lean over him and the brush of his hot mouth on the back of his ear. “The match is too even. And we are too far advanced in our moves ever to turn back to the beginning.”

Still not speaking, Michael spread his legs, ever so little. His arms, already splayed above the pillow, moved subtly toward the dowels, before he grasped them and waited.

“Mee-cha-el.” Simon’s voice held all the music of heaven, playing along his ear and down his backbone, on its way to the crack in his ass. His tongue began to trace the cleavage in his buttocks, and Michael began to shake, like a goddamn kid, unable to bear the outright pleasure of his wet mouth.

Simon had never put more than a finger near his asshole. And even then, it had been the kind of almost shy insertion a man like Michael might not even feel, his rear so pummeled for so many years by fingers, even fists of rough trade lovers. But this licking of his butt crack, this lapping and browsing of his most sensitive skin… Oh, God, he rose to it, arcing his buttocks and pushing the rim of his hole closer to the beloved mouth boasting a slick, hot tongue.

It was a few seconds only of outright bliss, but Michael’s mind and body feasted on a deep delight he’d never known. Too soon, Simon moved away. Michael felt his lover’s tangled chest hair grazing the length of his back, then his lips seeking his ear.

A whisper, a murmur, words almost unspoken. He strained to hear them.

Thin as Smoke #4
A muffled cough, a shimmer of silken shirt, the smell of a man’s cologne… Simon felt the presence of a stranger before he saw his shadowed face. A man, a very slender man, was leaning over Michael, his mouth close to his ear. Yet Simon heard his words clearly.

“May I have this dance?”

Michael seemed as startled by the intrusion as Simon. He saw his companion begin to shake his head in automatic denial. And then his eyebrows shot up, and his jaw slackened a little. Leaning close to Simon, he mouthed, “Finally,” and then he lifted his head and grinned at the gangly man.

“Sure. Love to, me dally.”

He stood. A languid hand seized his, drew him away from the table and into the crowd.

Simon sat dumbfounded for a few minutes, not hearing the music or seeing anyone in the cluster of bodies except for Michael groin to groin with a thin, even gaunt, yet not-so-bad-looking partner.

Even from a four-meter distance, in the wavering light, through a film of smoke, Simon could see the man’s features. The languorous dancer had a shock of dark hair combed straight back from a narrow face, and over his top lip crouched the razor’s edge of a mustache. His eyes were unreadable. Black, heavy-lidded, almost deliberately expressionless. Dusky smudges under the eyes bespoke either sickness or sleepless nights, or both. Below the dark circles, his prominent cheekbones reminded Simon of a bird of prey. A raven…or a vulture.

He shuddered. Who is this creature, and why is my gut in knots looking at him?

Masters of Cane #5
The next instant, Michael found himself arse-over-bollocks on the carpet. Simon had hooked his ankle with the cane handle and jerked just hard enough to send him crashing to the floor.

He and Simon became a tangle of hairy legs and bony knees, each struggling to pin the other to the thick rug. How in bloody hell Simon kept his robe together was a mystery he intended to crack. Managing to sit on his chest, Michael reached down and tore the sash from his opponent’s waist. The once-hidden cock lunged, a rabid dog seeking the flesh of its victim.

“Damn you! Get off me!”

Michael had begun to pant a little, not with effort but with blind lust.

“Aye, but not without a bite o’the beast. Ye said ye’d take me. So do it, or stop bragging.”

“Sodding bastard!”

Simon’s vocabulary was coming along nicely, Michael thought. In fact, his partner’s maddened speech made him so stiff he began to ache for relief. Simon had asked for it, plain and simple. No sense tittering and pretending, like a spinster in the face of a rare suitor.

He leaned on Simon’s chest and sought his mouth, tearing at the brooding lower lip and jabbing his tongue in a series of hard thrusts, as though the sensuous mouth was a willing asshole.

But he’d misjudged Simon, as usual. Where did the man’s strength come from? True, he worked his body mercilessly in his gentlemen’s club almost every day. But it took a special determination and skill to best Michael McCree. In a throb o’the heart, Simon had slid from his hold and turned him on his belly.

The cane came from nowhere. Simon used it as a vise to pin his arms behind, and then he felt his hands being wrapped by the sash of the dressing gown. In moments, he was trussed like a holiday goose, his gut sunken into the wool fibers of the rug and his chin and his dick ground into its surface.

Simon lay along his spine and put his mouth in his right ear. “This time, McCree, lie still. Or I swear to God I’ll roll you under the bed and leave you here.”

“An’ ye’ll recruit what army?”

“Just my cane and my cock.”

Author Bio:
Erin O’Quinn earned a BA (English) and MA (Comparative Literature) from the University of Southern California. Her life has been a pastiche of fascinating vocations—newspaper marketing manager, university teacher, car salesperson, landscape gardener—until now, in relative retirement, she lives and writes in a small town in central Texas.

Erin has published six M/M novels and three novellas with AmberQuillPress and two independent M/M novels.

Her series titled “The Gaslight Mysteries” includes Heart to Hart, Sparring with Shadows, To the Bone. and Thin as Smoke.

Erin's indie books are NEVADA HIGHLANDER and THE KILT COMPLEX, both very well received.

In addition to these Amber Quill Press and indie books, Erin has thirteen other published novels. Of those, two are M/M historicals published by Siren Bookstrand, set in the Ireland of badass clansmen, cattle drovers, druids, Saxon mercenaries and St. Patrick himself.


Heart to Hart #1
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe
Sparring with Shadows #2

To the Bone #3

Thin as Smoke #4
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Masters of Cane #5

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Heather! What a nice job, and what a huge effort once again to spotlight these works. I love your presentation and your reviews. I am equally stunned that you managed to track down all these links. Myhuge respect, and thanks, for everything you've done for me. ~Erin O'Quinn